By Joanie Cox
Barry Weiss is the skeleton glove-wearing, wonderfully wacky star of A&E’s “Storage Wars.” He called us from his hotel room at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where he was attending a storage convention. The reality show celebrity known as “The Collector” admits he doesn’t know how to text or Twitter (yes, that Twitter account bearing his name is run by an impostor) but he does have a knack for telling jokes and finding kooky antiques.
What’s the most expensive item you’ve ever found in a storage locker?
“Some of my favorites were definitely not the most expensive, but I did find a 100-year-old pocket spittoon and some engraved aluminum hard hats that were really cool. I’m not in this for the money.”
How do you find out about the storage locker auctions?
“These are public auctions published in various publications. We’ve been to some in Vegas and many in California. Every state has its own technical procedures. I’d love to go to Florida for an auction. They’re going to do a ‘Storage Wars’ in New York and most likely Miami.”
Do you get a rush bidding on storage lockers?
“Yes. In a sense, it’s gambling. You never really know what you’re going to get. We don’t see the stuff before we bid on it. This is really a crap shoot. It’s a difficult way to make a buck so keep your day job.”
What’s your advice for someone who wants in on storage bidding wars?
“Six months ago, a guy in the crowd told me ‘I quit my job. I told my boss to take the job and shove it and I’m becoming a full-time storage locker buyer.’ My first thought was God, I hope he didn’t leave a job with benefits. I kept asking him if he had a truck and he didn’t. You can’t do this job without a truck. I try to deter people.”
What made you want to get into the storage locker bidding business?
“I’ve been at this about three years. A lot of people don’t realize that for 20 years, I was an international male escort. It was lucrative. No, I actually come from the produce business. I opened a wholesale produce company with my brother and we did a lot of business with cruise ships in Florida. I retired from that and my friend Thom Beers was over having drinks one night. He produced ‘Ice Road Truckers’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’ and told me he was starting a show on abandoned storage lockers. I was retired and traveling around the world watching Nascar and motorsports events. I decided to give the storage locker business a try.”
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in a storage locker?
“I found Jimmy Hoffa’s pinky finger in a locker, but at the last second, we sent it to forensics and found out it wasn’t.”
Have you had any unforgettable fan encounters?
“The way I like to give back to my fans is to sleep with each and every one of them. No, I’m kidding. But about six months ago I was in Vegas and a 50-something woman took a picture with me and said ‘Your concert at Mandalay Bay last night was awesome.’ I have no idea who she was talking about. And last night, I was in front of Caesars Palace and two 30-something women stopped me for a photo. They were all cheesed up. And the rocket scientist of the two interjects, ‘That’s not Barry! Barry’s better looking.’ And the other friend said ‘You poser!’ She was really salty. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t going to chase them down the street with my license.”
Have you ever found any storage lockers stocked with high end designer items?
“There’s always knockoff crap in lockers. We call it ‘designer inspired.’ One couple on the show found some cigarette cases and one, I believe, was Tiffany. But we don’t find Louis Vuitton. We find 'Louis Went Wrong.'”
What’s with the skeleton gloves you wear on the show?
“When I started this, I knew gloves would be a prerequisite. I started out wearing a pair of my motorcycle gloves and then I got the skeleton pair. I’m actually getting a whole skeleton Hazmat outfit made.”